My last post on getting the right colour on your wall had a lot of you talking, so here is the promised follow-up.

It really is true that all colour is relative.  Remember how you think your jeans are white until you go out into the snow – and then the blinding brightness of the snow makes them look a dirty off white?  Or how surely black is black, until you wear several items of black clothing together and find that they are all subtly different?

I’ll try to show you what I mean here.  Here are two blues:

Blue on walls

But you’ll feel like the one on the left is really purple.  Until you see it next to purple:

Blue versus purple

So now, you’ll admit that maybe that one is blue, it was the first colour on the right that was greenish grey.  So let’s look at that with a greenish grey..

Blue with grey green

This is one of the reasons that when you paint a colour on a wall it looks different from what you expect – because of the colours that surround it.

It is also the reason why it is incredibly hard to work out whether you like a colour on a wall when you paint a bit on – you are automatically judging it next to the current colour of the wall.  The wall will look different when you can’t see any of the old colour as comparison.

Basically all colour is relative (to its surrounding).

Some ways to make it clearer are:

1. some colours are very clear and clean and bright.  others are ‘dirty’ or more subtle blends of colours.  Which you like is generally personal preference, but if you put a clean colour next to a subtle one, they won’t look nice.  The clean one might look ‘cheap’ or the subtle one ‘dirty’.  Look at these book spines.

The green on top is clean, the lower one dirty.

Put dirty greens together and they look great.  Likewise clean greens:

2. All colours are a blend and therefore have undertones.  A red can be pinkish (if it has some blue in it) or orangey (if it has yellow in it). If you have clashing undertones (a greenish beige with a reddish beige), even though they are both the same colour, they won’t look right.

This bedroom starts to look lilac not blue when you see the one below – because the blue above has lots of red in it, while the one below has yellow in it.  The one above is moving towards purple, while below it’s heading towards green.

And looking at the one below, it appears almost grey…

The solution:  take your paint and fabric swatches with you so that you can compare actual colours.  If you can’t take a sample of your carpet or rug, find paint sample cards that match them, and take those instead.

And if it’s all too hard – ask a professional.  We’re here to help, and save you money in the long term!